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How do you transcribe solos?

DrSaxnoob

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I'm just about to start learning to transcribe solos, and I'm finding it very difficult. I honestly just don't know where to start ... So I'd appreciate any ideas of how to go about doing this; your method(s), simply. I realize there are likely many ways, feel free to share, so that I can find one that suits me :)

Project is Miles Davis solo in So What, and my first step is to get the rhythms/phrases down. Why this solo? Well, I love it and I want to see what I sound like playing it on the sax!
 

nigeld

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I have used a program called Transcribe. It doesn't actually do the transcription, despite the name, but it helps a lot - it allows you to take a sound file, mark the bars and beats, slow it down a lot, and replay short sections. Very useful.
 
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GCinCT

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Excellent first choice to transcribe. It’s beautiful and pretty easy. I’ve been transcribing it on soprano.

I do have a tip. Sing the solo first. Get to know it so well you can sing along with the record effortlessly. You will internalize it that way and transferring it to your sax will be easier.
 

fibracell

Senior Member
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you need to do very small chunks - take a phrase , 1 or 2 bars, and play it over until you can sing it. Then pick out the notes on the sax, and practice the phrase. Then move on to another phrase. Just take your time and learn phrases that sound great. Eventually you may end up learning the whole solo.

You can write it down or just memorize it. Transcribe software helps you isolate the phrase on your computer.
 

Colin the Bear

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Just write down what you hear. Or skip that and just play what he plays. Simples
 

jbtsax

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I also use Transcribe. Often it helps to slow the measure to get all of the right pitches. The system that works best for me is to use music staff paper and just put in hash marks that show just "heads" of the notes or the pitches. Then after writing down the pitches of a 4 or 8 bar phrase I go back and add the stems, bars, flags, and rests to indicate the rhythm. I am educated well beyond my level of intelligence in music and I still have a hard time transcribing rhythms and getting them accurate, so don't feel bad if you struggle a bit with this too.

One thing I might add is that I do all the transcribing in concert pitch taking advantage of the keyboard that is a part of the Transcribe window. Once the solo or the song is completed then I transpose the part to the key of the sax I am going to play the part on. Another option is if you have Finale or Sibelius, you can input the song in concert pitch from your notes and have the program do the transcribing for you.
 

DrSaxnoob

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Sweden
Thank you all for this, I've started at the sing-along end and I'll see where that takes me. Great tips for moving on beyond that! I think that, for my purpose at hand, which is to develop my listening skills, I'll try to work with transcribing from original speed, though.

But I'll probably cheat with slower speed on VLC in the end ;)
 

fibracell

Senior Member
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614
After you've done the transcription, you then have to figure out which bits sound great to you. And then try to understand why it sounds good. Then you can expand upon the idea and try to adapt it for yourself. As an example on 2 5 1's they often play chromatic lines over the 5 chord. - something like Cm6 arpeggio over a B7 chord. Then you can come up with your own variations.
 
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